Hi, my name is Rebecca Wood and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Prescott Unified School District (PUSD) as their Family Services Coordinator. As a major portion of my position, I oversee the PUSD Family Resource Center and its programs. The Family Resource Center is designed to be an all-encompassing space for any PUSD students and families to receive the assistance they need to ensure the student has a successful school year.

The Center is in the final year of this VISTA project and is on its way to being sustained by the district itself.  Being the VISTA who gets to transfer over the project is an amazing task, which also comes with some big questions regarding the past and future success of the program.

The VISTAs before me did the incredible task of creating the space, bringing in donations and volunteers, and really spreading the word to the school community that the Center is here to serve them. In almost 3 years the Center has received well over $20,000 worth of school supply donations. But the question remains, are the needs of students and families being adequately meet when they come to the Center?

Community participation is key to the success of the Center, as seen by the support shown from local donors and volunteers. Still a challenge facing the Center is perception and assumptions on what is actually needed to have a success day at school. People often times want to donate the “cute” things, such as a pack of crayons and a backpack with a Pomeranian in a beret on the front. Which is wonderful for the younger students, however, we serve students ranging in age from 3-20 who are not always receiving education in a traditional classroom structure.

Computer based learning has been introduced in grades as low as 2nd and PUSD offers a completely online high school degree program for students who were unable to graduate via the traditional route.  With this increase of technology being used in the classroom in mind, of that $20,000 worth of donations the Center has only received 15 pairs of headphones and no calculators this school year.

It is this challenge that the Center is hoping to combat before the VISTA project ends this year. The Center has partnered with a local non-profit that also serves school age children and families to better facilitate a needs assessment on behalf of students. This needs assessment is designed to bring together those serving schools and students and those interested in donating into conversation with one another to highlight the genuine needs of students during their school day.  This will lead to less duplication of services in such a small community and provide a yearly, targeted approach to giving on behalf of our donors; such as one donation source providing backpacks while another provides calculators. This is designed to ensure that all needs are meet and students are equipped to succeed through the Center for ongoing years, even after the VISTAs leave.